Christmas 2018: The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar

Director: Bradley Walsh

Cast: Kat Graham, Quincy Brown, Ethan Peck, Ron Cephas Jones, Genelle Williams, Ali Hassan, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll

A struggling but talented photographer inherits an antique holiday advent calendar, the contents of which seem to predict the future. Will this magical calendar lead her to love this holiday season? – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I really only gave this one a chance because I really like Kat Graham in The Vampire Diaries. However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of her in Honey 2 so while I don’t know what The Holiday Calendar was about, I decided to take a chance anyways. I do want to say that on one side, I did work for what it was trying to deliver but if you really don’t have much tolerance for these kind of Hallmark films, then it might not be for you. I’m just going to lay it out so you don’t waste your time. I say this because The Holiday Calendar does nothing special. Everything you predict will probably happen right down to who she ends up being with in the end and even how she pieces together the “magic” calendar to the things she missed to leading her to the one. However, while being predictable isn’t particularly a good thing, there is enough fun bits here to make it enjoyable. Its heartwarming and talks about family and dreams and careers and taking chances and not just romance.

The Holiday Calendar

While the antique calendar itself has something of a spirit here in the background with a lot of presence because the film flows with what pops up in the window everyday, the movie does benefit a lot from Kat Graham who does a great job as Abby, a girl who is stuck at a day job that pays her bills but scared to live her own dreams. There’s this really fun element to her character and her friendship with Josh (Quincy Jones) has a lot of sweet moments to it also. Surprisingly, the parts that I liked the best are the ones where Abby talks to her grandfather because there is a lot of genuine and good bits to it all. The family moments and the picture moments and those bits also add to the experience.

The only thing I did feel about The Holiday Calendar is that there is this turning point moment in the middle which felt kind of awkward. It was this weird epiphany moment that kind of felt out of spot but it didn’t really last too long before things got back on track. If you like Hallmark holiday films, this one is pretty alright. Its pretty predictable but also has a nice heartwarming element and emphasizes on more than romance but also on family moments and a lot of Christmas-y moments.

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Christmas 2018: Angela’s Christmas (2017)

December is finally here! That means that Christmas/Holiday marathon is here.

I’m a bit behind with watching holiday movies even if there was a solid plan on what to watch and even some Netflix films and such to be released before Christmas comes around so its all set. Finally, I got around to getting a short animated Netflix film this weekend. I went into this one completely blind but starting with animated films can’t go wrong, right?

Let’s check it out!

Angela’s Christmas (2018)

Angela's Christmas

Director (and co-writer): Damien O’Connor

Voice Cast: Lucy O’Connell, Ruth Negga

Set in Ireland in the 1910s, ‘Angela’s Christmas’ is a funny, heart-warming and poignant story about the power of family and the innocent desire of a child to ensure everyone is safe, warm and loved at Christmas time. –IMDB

Angela’s Christmas is a 30 minute short Christmas movie that takes us to the night before Christmas when a little girl takes the the Baby Jesus from her church manger with the best intentions of warming him up before returning him to the cold church. Family-friendly holiday films like these are the perfect dose of the holiday spirit filled with both a valuable lesson on family and childhood innocence. It delivers really fun and heartwarming moments.

Angela's Christmas

At the same time, this film also takes us for a little adventure through the streets as Angela encounters lots of fun little incidents. Be it with a policeman with a fun sleight of hand pulling coins and whatnot from ears or going to a more adult setting with a candy shop during the day that turns into a bar at night or even the little arguments between siblings and how everything comes together. There’s a lot to love in here. The animation is also done so nicely with each set piece drawn really well and the night colors working so well together to create some lovely scenes, just like a little creepy alley scene where Angela’s imagination takes her for a little scare as she imagines the tree branch shadows on the wall chases after her. Perhaps more poignant to myself because, I felt that way before eons ago when I went on a Snow White ride and went through the night escape with the trees doing the same thing.

Angela’s Christmas is the perfect length. It builds a nice simple story and delivers some nice lessons on the Christmas spirit and especially about the togetherness of family with a spark of imagination with everyone. Perfect to add to a Christmas marathon for the whole family.

Halloween 2018: TV Binge: The Haunting of Hill House (Season 1, 2018)

We are back with the horror marathon continuation. Some of you know that I am a huge Mike Flanagan fan. I think that he has a lot of skills as a director and delivers some great atmospheric horror. When I saw that The Haunting of Hill House is created by Mike Flanagan, it went to the top of the pile right away. And here we are…

The Haunting of Hill House (Season 1, 2018)

the haunting of hill house

Director: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Michael Huisman, Elizabeth Reaser, Kate Siegel, Carla Gugino, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Henry Thomas, Victoria Pedretti

Flashing between past and present, a fractured family confronts haunting memories of their old home and the terrifying events that drove them from it. – IMDB

The Haunting of Hill House is adapted from a book which I haven’t read before so no comparison from me on how closely or loosely adapted it is. However, as many great reviews as there are out there, there were some pacing issues here. Some scenes were drawn out but I won’t get into which to keep this spoiler free. If you disagree, you can send me an email and I will tell you which and you can tell me why I am wrong. One of my biggest comments about almost all Netflix series is pacing, it always has his first half slow development and halfway point has this turning climactic point that changes the game then the second half of the series is mindblowingly awesome. Same applies here. Pacing doesn’t equate execution completely because in terms of creepy and atmosphere, this one delivers them in great beautiful haunting degrees and while there are some jump scares, they have this lingering effect. I say this because I had one scene that startled me and I had a delay in reaction from screaming really loud because I was terrified.

the haunting of hill house

As much as I think the pacing for the first half doesn’t match the second half, I can’t exactly dismiss it either because it gave us a one on one time with each of the Crain kids and their views on Hill House but more importantly, their personality and relationship with each other. It told us a story from each of their lives and we can see the impact that their childhood at Hill House had on them as we alternated masterfully between the flashbacks to the present. Its this part that subconsciously gives the connection to the characters. Of course, some of the stories are stronger than the other ones but thinking back, it fits together with the end game. Talking about character, Hill House is a character by itself. The layout and the decor to its past and its previous inhabitants. There is a lot of mystery behind it.

the haunting of hill house

As much as I felt that I am not as excited about The Haunting of Hill House as everyone else seems to be, Mike Flanagan does deliver on the atmosphere and giving legit jumpscares that were effective and fitting. This series is in its details. The ghosts are probably more than you can see unless you observe really carefully. However, the feeling that something is lurking or something doesn’t feel right or how the ghosts appear are all done really well.

Ultimate Beastermaster: Survival of the Fittest (Season 3, 2018)

Ultimate Beastmaster: Survival of the Fittest
(Season 3, 2018)

Countries: USA, South Korea, Great Britain, France, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Australia

Hosts:

USA: Tiki Barber, CM Punk
South Korea: Seo Kyung Suk, Park Kyeong Rim
Great Britain: Kate Abdo, Stu Bennett
France: Gilles Marini, Sandy Heribert
Germany: Micky Beisenherz, Jeannine Michaelsen
Mexico: Luis Ernesto Franco, Ines Sainz
Brazil: Rafinha Bastos, Anderson Silva
Australia: Dannii Minogue, Nick Cummins

Season 3 of The Ultimate Beastmaster is definitely a survival of the fittest. After last year, it seems they’ve spent those extra months to revamp the Beast. The show itself which felt more like the Ninja Warrior game show style is definitely feeling much more like a legitimate competition with a slight revamp in point system, modified obstacles and a new structure to the competition itself. There are more countries, less athletes, more possibilities to gain extra points based on speed and the show adds in a semifinals portion. For mega fans like myself who can’t help to binge the entire show over the weekend of the launch, its a lot to process whether all those changes made the show more competition or did it create an imbalance to the athletes in each round making it to the semifinals and then to the finals. However, I have to say, by the time I reached the finals, I was sold through and through on this new set-up for Ultimate Beastmaster.

Season 3 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down and that makes it so exciting because it gives this Netflix reality show not only an international twist but also has the perk of having the countries involved be hosted with their own languages. It is something I’ve appreciated from the first season and highlights some fantastic athletes. This season’s athletes are simply incredible. A lot of them that made it through really showed resilience, perseverance, motivation and even packed in some incredibly inspiring stories from different backgrounds. I might never train to conquer the Beast, it feels a little late but it did give me such an appreciation of the obstacles and respect for these fantastic athletes.

If you are like me, well, lets take a look at some of the changes more in depth and how I feel its improved Ultimate Beastmaster as a whole both from the entertainment value like the hosts and countries as well as the competition set-up itself. Note that there will be no spoilers. I won’t tell you who wins the season, who makes it to whichever part or mention particularly any athletes. The joy is letting their abilities and successes surprise you when you go watch it for yourself.

Ultimate Beastmaster

Contestants & Hosts

This year’s new addition is Australia and Great Britain for starters. They bring in their own rivalries along with some of the other countries also falling into their own competitions especially propelled by the hosts as they fight in their booths in past year. To be honest, the hosts themselves bring in some screen time and they are full of life. One of the features of Ultimate Beastmaster is that each country gets their show hosted by that country or the language the hosts are speaking. For me in Canada, well, we always get the US version of things which is not a bad thing. This year, Tiki Barber makes a return and CM Punk replaces last season’s co-host. I don’t know who he is but hearing Tiki Barber have the chance of calling him “Punk” all the line legitimately because its his name makes it kind of entertaining at times. There is a fair screen time for other hosts too.

In terms of contestants, this year’s is all about who they are. I like the fact that they decreased the amount of contestants making it one per country but adding 2 extra countries (I believe) to have 8 countries instead of 6 with 2 contestants to make it even more diverse and of course, the decreased amount lets us see more lengthy versions of their Beastmaster run in each level while also seeing more of their back story. In the previous seasons, it would favor over the country we were watching but in sportsmanship like manner, which makes this more of an actual competition, it gives the feeling of equal emphasis and that adds so much to the competition. Honestly, I have my more favorite contestants because we learn more about them and watch them through the levels so everyone gets to cheer for everyone or someone when we reach the semifinals or even the finals. It got me more involved. Sometimes the drama is a little heavy handed but I think in some cases, Ultimate Beastmaster also doubles as motivation that working out is a positive thing and inspiring as different outlets for different people in different country having different reasons that pushed to the sports and fitness that they choose to excel in.

Point System & Tournament Structure

In the past, from what I remember at least, the point system was accumulative over the 3 rounds and the lowest contestants like 2 or 4 or something would get eliminated. I did wonder on how I felt for the first few episodes when I saw that each round resets the points to zero and makes it structured around their successes in that round so that the contestants all get a clean slate for the next part and not have a head start on their points giving them an advantage to move on to the next round. At the same time, point thrusters are present as usual while they added something called mega point thrusters which count down and encourage the contestants to be faster to get there and maximize their points. Its good because while caution is important, the same amount of points is differentiated by their time in who comes out first. Mega thrusters also give the contestants a way to who is willing to make those risks to get ahead and sometimes, especially with one contestant this season, it cost them a lot.

What makes this more like a tournament is that every episode yields the top two to go into the semi-finals. And semi-finals are after each set of 3 episodes bringing in 6 contestants to do pretty much an endurance run of the entire obstacles as far as they can with on restart from a checkpoint. This is what makes it more like a tournament. The top few will go to the finals which now isn’t a race to the top but how far or how fast they can get to the top with any points as possible.

Obstacle Course

ultimate beastmaster s3

Finally, its impossible to not end this without talking about the obstacle courses. If you follow it like myself, you will see that some of the obstacles especially the particularly challenging ones are still around. It is nice to see that while this course is very favoring towards those with upper body strength, some of the courses are changed a little more to be a little easier but making some other parts also more challenging. Its these changes that give it a nice twist and refreshing to watch. Sometimes the little changes are all you need to round out the experience.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Ultimate Beastmaster. I love the new structure and the whole tournament style works really well. The new system and less countries and having more time to see the contestants and the obstacles in general all contribute to a better experience. Its an awesome change.  I’m hoping that it gets renewed again.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

Check out the book review HERE.

Its not a secret that I’m not a huge fan of adaptations because a lot of times they lack the beauty what the words portray. However, I loved To All The Boys I’ve Love Before and you can see the review in the link above that I went and bought the second book full price (something I don’t do often so its a big deal). When Netflix showed off their trailer for it, I was pretty much sold. A part of me wondered how it would turn out but then, it had some a great premise that I thought there was no way that they could destroy it, especially when they even cast an Asian-American as their lead just like the book. Consider me happy just with that sole point.

However, let’s be objective, as much as I can and check it out!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Director: Susan Johnson

Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, Madeleine Arthur, Emilija Baranac, Israel Broussard, John Corbett

A teenage girl’s secret love letters are exposed and wreak havoc on her love life. – IMDB

Its not surprise that I was a little skeptical as much as I wanted to be objective and not assume too much going in. To be honest, I was a little worried. Why? Well, the teen movies they’ve had on Netflix has been worryingly bad. F the Prom, #RealityHigh are just two very bad examples of how much I hated watching those two movies a lot. But then, To All the Boys I’ve Ever Loved is based on a really solid novel. Its a simple premise with charming characters. Its pretty hard to mess up. And you know what? Netflix delivered all the way!

I loved the tone of the trailer and when we saw the actual outcome of the entire movie, it worked so well together. It took a moment or two to embrace some of the characters are the beginning and get into it but it really captured the essence of the novel itself, especially when I was feeling every bit the feelings I had when I was reading the book. So great job on that, Netflix! Its nice to see a well done adaptation, even with a detail or two changed around. I’m not really bothered a lot by changes in details as long as they work in the realm of films because some things works well in books and they don’t translate as well into movies. However, there is one thing that was changed around which made me wonder what the point was because it affected probably one other scene and didn’t make much of a difference whether it was shown or not. I’m avoiding spoilers here so if you read the book, you may know what I’m talking about.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

 

For one and probably the most important, the Song sisters play a big role in the film in whichever presence they have. Lana Condor does a great job at being our main lead here as she takes on this clueless teen who has these fantasy notions of romance in her imaginary world and scared to actually fall in love. There’s a good deal of humor and clumsiness as you would seem in the teenage world from her unconfident driving to her desire to take over the role of her older sister and the fictional romantic world that gives her these more “behind the times” sort of love concepts. At the same time, this makes her letters being sent out every bit as amusing as the two main guys are the main contenders on her mind. The first being her sister’s recently ex-boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard) and the most popular boy in her grade, Peter (Noah Centineo) who she ends up making a deal with to not let Josh think that she likes him anymore. I have to say that Noah Centineo casted as Peter was a little out of the left field for me. I didn’t quite picture him like that but his character did grow on me. Especially in his scenes with Lara Jean and watching how their characters developed and then their relationship also grew as their chemistry and connection was more apparent. It works because they are quite the clueless first love teenage characters who make bad decisions and have their own reasons for justifying it. Its this cluelessness especially in Lara Jean (who reminded me of one of my friends at that age) that makes it so charming and fun to watch.

to all the boys i've loved before

Aside from the fun romance bits, which does take up a decent amount of screentime, it also emphasizes on the family aspect. The three sisters are quite the presence. While Janel Parrish’s older sister Margot role is quickly disappeared into the background as more of a mental presence with everyone, her scenes are very much the big sister role who takes care of her family very well but also trying to find herself as she spreads her wings and leaves the comfortable protection of her home. At the same time, the physical charming and smart-aleck younger sister Kitty played by  Anna Cathcart is incredibly comedic as she pokes fun at her lame older sister who lacks the basic social skills and driving skills (and other things) but when the end of the day, they all do things for each other. That sisterly bond is shown so well also. John Corbett plays the father of these girls who is a widower trying to make things work amidst his busy job. His role wasn’t huge but at the same time, these girls along with their dad is living up to mom’s memories and her words as they try embrace those memories in each of their own way to be more courageous about their life decisions. Its a touching subplot in what feels like a teen romance but has a little more than just that which is what makes it also a great watch that has some heart string tugging moments outside of those romantic parts.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before

Overall, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is a fun and charming teen coming of age romance drama/comedy all mixed up in a lovely package. Its a great adaptation of the novel albeit its slight changes because it captures the characters, their heartbreak, their fears and insecurities and gives them enough back story to make their relationships, whether friendship, family or romance, enough space to grow but paced properly to make it always have something meaningful. There are some over the top moments but to be honest, the book had some of those moments as well. The charm and charisma of the film comes not only in the fun source material but also how this young cast gave it life especially when we look at Anna Cathcart, Lana Condor and Noa Centineo. If you like teen romance drama/comedy type films, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is an awesome choice.

TV Binge: Queer Eye (Season 1, 2018)

Nailed it Season 2 (TV Binge HERE) gave me the push I needed to start up Queer Eye on Netflix. I never saw the original on TV so I’ve only ever heard of what it is and never really knew. However, the mini special episode on Nailed It was so fun that I knew that I had to check it out.

Queer Eye (Season 1, 2018)

Queer Eye

Hosts: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Tan France

A new Fab Five set out to Atlanta to help the city’s straight men refine their wardrobes, grooming, diet, cultural pursuits, and home décor. – IMDB

Queer Eye starts off with the opening segment with the Fab 5 talking about being a part of this team and what they say is exactly the perfect way to start it off with two key quotes:

“The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” – Tan

“My goal is to figure out how we’re similar as opposed to how different we are.” – Antoni

Queer Eye does a great job at delivering on their goals of acceptance and highlighting what makes LGBT similar. Other than when I was a child and found it odd, I’ve always been open-minded about the LGBT community so I don’t quite understand what the difference is other than the fact that they like a different gender. However, the show itself delivers more than that. For one, there’s the Fab 5. Second, we need to take a look at these makeover stories and how impactful and meaningful they are and finally, the message it wants to deliver as a whole and the overall enjoyment of the series.

Fab 5

Like I said before, I’ve never watched the original so I have no comparison (not that I think it needs to be compared). This Fab 5 is comprised of Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness. As a group, they take care of food & wine, fashion, design, culture and grooming respectively. As a group, they blend so well together on screen from how they admire each other’s work and how to approach their game plan of the overall makeover. There are some great moments as a group throughout the season because they each have their expertise. With that said, each of the Fab 5’s expertise brings a lot to the table. They each know what they are doing and it really makes the viewers feel that the knowledge they bring is educating the public. They never go extreme and stuff anything down anyone’s throats but they feel so genuine to watch because of their dedication to the cause. I’ve watched and rewatched the show a lot of times and their reactions and expressions always bring me so much joy and whatever emotions. They are all so unique in their personality that it blends so well to make it an entertaining watch.

Queer Eye

As we look at the makeover stories here, the first season was our introduction to what the Fab 5 wanted to achieve and determine what they were capable of. In that sense, the first episode set the tone perfectly with an older gentlemen who was open-minded but also fell into some misconceptions in how gay men were identified. For example when he asks who wears the pants in the relationship. However, be it the age difference or the lack of confidence of their first makeover person, it all works well to show what the Fab 5 is all about even if you’ve never seen the original. They educate not only in their own domains and its not only a physical transformation but also a mental transformation as they try to help build confidence or help them see a better version of themselves that someone will want to be. Be it this first episode called “You Can’t Fix Ugly” or the other episodes in the season, you can see the different backgrounds and the different perspectives as the Fab 5 remain open-minded and honest about the feelings and views as they also learn about the people they are dealing with to not only transform the person of the week but also take away from that experience. Its a really fantastic thing to see communication especially in the current state of the world and all the news we hear about the bad stuff going on. Season 1 followed along very strong in the candidates that were chosen in the following episodes. There were local heroes like a fireman trying to get ready to raise enough money for a fireman program, a man coming out to his family, other one dealing with opening up himself to the people in his life, a father of six trying to make it all happen in the everyday chaos then of course one of the best of the season, was the police officer. Its a lot of variety and that makes it fresh and new to watch as well as educational to see the different views people have on the different topics in the society. There’s a lot of heartstrings to be tugged here and a few times, I was looking for my box of Kleenex (and I mean, in some cases, every rewatch gets me all over again).

Queer Eye

Suffice to say that I’m a huge fan of the show. Queer Eye delivers on so many levels. The show itself and the Fab 5 have a great personality that works so well in the realm of what they are doing. In many ways, a lot of what they are saying and teaching is relatable because its not just a physical transformation. At the same time, it works well to showcase the initial statement of how its about acceptance of everyone no matter the differences but rather to see the similarities that everyone has. I think the message is a great one and because of these heartfelt stories and the makeover, its entertaining and educational and that makes for some great positive reality TV and something I totally recommend for everyone.

TV Binge: Nailed It (Season 2, 2018)

If you missed the first season recap, you can find it HERE.

Probably one of the fastest TV binges ever! While I have a ton of TV binges I have to work on, Nailed It is surprisingly easy to write about so during this taxing week, I decided to put a lot of reality TV binges in advance.

Nailed It (Season 2, 2018)

Nailed It Season 2

Hosts: Nicole Byer, Jacques Torres

Guest Judges: Jon Gabrus, Ron Ben-Israel, Johnny Hekker, Waylynn Lucas, Art Smith, Joshua John Russell, Antoni Porowski

Nailed It is a pretty lovely concept and it works overall as a reality TV show. If you want the nutshell version of how I liked the first season, I liked it enough for me to hop right onto it the first weekend after it launched and then probably finished it over 2 days. Its fairly short episodes and there is only 6 + 1 episodes so its not exactly impossible to do either. In some ways, the entertainment value is there. Nicole Byer is great at her job. I know some people think she is annoying to watch but I actually think in Season 2, her and Jacques Torres has found somewhat of a balance and chemistry to make it work. I like her bombastic personality and its that personality that makes it fun to watch. The same goes for the judges who make their way onto the show which all have something to offer and add a little light to everything.

Nailed It

However, sadly, I do feel that Nailed It in Season 2 has betrayed its concept a little. Even if you went to Wikipedia or IMDB, they call it an amateur bake-off reality TV series. However, it didn’t quite go that patch especially in the first round of challenges as we saw watermelon carving and then a football field reconstruction where the extend of making food was organizing, chopping and making guacamole. All very noble things to learn how to do and hard to put together but doesn’t quite fit into the formula that the show is trying to sell initially. Maybe its because I watched this for the amateur baker angle that it disappointed me. Technically, I mean, this all does fit into the idea because Nailed It is just about hot messes that happen, right? So, you could apply it to anything that can be recreated.

Nailed It

Fact is, I’d be lying if I said that Nailed It Season 2 wasn’t entertaining. It was pretty entertaining and I loved the Queer Eye crossover episode which was just too short. That episode actually got me to sit down and actually get started on that series, which I’ll be doing a TV Binge on very soon for both seasons because well, while this one I’ve only watched once since the end of June. I’ve already watched Queer Eye both seasons twice. I’m going on a tangent so lets bring it back to Nailed It! Entertaining still but not quite what I expected with the additional diversity of the projects. When I get to the new reality TV Baking competition series Sugar Rush soon also, we’ll talk about how this could go so many different themes instead of going into these odd non-baking challenges. I wouldn’t be so disappointed if it was baking savory snacks to be honest. Its just that baking thing that some challenges was missing and I felt like Nailed It lost its way just a little every once in a while.

But then, if Nicole Byer is back for Season 3 of Nailed It, I’d be down to watch some more.